Lemon verbena is an amazing and often underrated herb that’s highly valued for its therapeutic and health benefits. It also has a wonderful lemony aroma and refreshing flavor. Typical uses of lemon verbena are as a herb or for steeping to make a delicious lemon-flavored herbal tea.
Lemon verbena has been used for centuries, if not millennia. There’s is a long history of its use in traditional medicine for treating colds, fever, anxiety, indigestion, spasms, and insomnia. It is also popular as an infusion for boosting the immune system and a natural aid for weight loss.
What is Lemon Verbena?
The lemon verbena plant is a woody shrub with lance-shaped, light green leaves and small white or lilac flowers. A fully grown shrub can reach up to 2-3 meters high. When bruised, the leaves release a powerful lemony scent, from which its name is derived.
Lemon verbena has many common names. It is known as louisa, lemon beebrush, verveine citronnelle, cedrón, zitronenstrauch, or hierba luisa. Scientifically, it’s known as Aloysia citrodora or (confusingly) also Lippia citriodora or Aloysia triphylla. The multiple scientific names are due to several reclassifications over the course of history.
Of the more popular lemon-scented herbs, lemon verbena is probably the lesser-known. Both lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon) are more popular but not because they are necessarily better. A properly cultivated lemon verbena generally has a stronger lemony flavor and aroma than lemon balm or lemongrass.
Although native to South America, lemon verbena has been cultivated in Europe for centuries. It was first brought over by the Portuguese and Spanish in the 17th century. At the time, it was mainly cultivated for its oil but became less popular due to the discovery of the more economical lemongrass.
Nowadays, lemon verbena is still widely cultivated, mostly for its oil (used in cosmetics and candles) and for consumption as a herbal tea.
Lemon Verbena Tea
Lemon verbena makes a deliciously refreshing and balmy infusion. It’s soothing and relaxing, naturally caffeine-free and full of health-boosting properties.
The infusion is made by steeping fresh or dried lemon verbena leaves for about five minutes. Always use freshly boiled water. Fresh water is important as this helps extract the best flavor. However, the primary factor affecting flavor and aroma is the leaf quality.
Some of the factors which affect the quality of lemon verbena leaves are:
– plant selection
– cultivation method
– soil type
– climatic conditions
– the time of harvest
– preservation method
– storage conditions
There are so many variables, some of which vary with time and others which cannot be controlled. Getting these factors right is not easy and requires great skill. But when grown under optimum conditions, you are rewarded with beautiful flavors and the highest concentration of health-boosting components.
Lemon Verbena Health Benefits
There is a long history of lemon verbena consumption in South America. It is believed that, in ancient times, the Incas were the first who discovered its beneficial properties. Lemon verbena is still widely used as a traditional medicine these days.
Many academic studies have been undertaken to evaluate lemon verbena. These show that lemon verbena possesses several beneficial properties, including antioxidant, anti-anxiety, and anti-inflammatory effects.
The studies also validate the majority of traditional therapeutic and health-boosting claims. However, more work still remains to completely understand the exact workings – particularly regarding the potential synergistic effects of the various biological components.
Here are 9 health benefits proclaimed by experts:
Lemon verbena is a fascinating herb. It not only makes a delicious herbal tea but has numerous health benefits.
Despite lemon verbena’s wondrous properties, it is no replacement for a healthy lifestyle. But drinking lemon verbena tea as part of a balanced diet can be beneficial. Its protective components can help relieve adverse health symptoms, boost your immune system, and improve your overall wellbeing.
However, it is important to note that we do not recommend using lemon verbena instead of or along prescribed medication without prior consultation.
Also, as the effect on pregnancy is not well established, pregnant women should exercise caution when consuming lemon verbena (or any natural supplement).
If in doubt, always consult a dietary or medical professional.